What is sciatica?

Sciatica refers to pain which occurs along the sciatic nerve (which runs from your lower back to your feet). It is typically due to the sciatic nerve being irritated or compressed. The pain originating from the sciatic nerve typically radiates from the lower back down the buttock and thigh and into the leg.
You may also feel electrical or burning pain down one leg with or without the associated neurological deficits of tingling sensation and muscle weakness

What causes sciatica?

  • Disc herniation
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Injury to the lower back which directly or indirectly result in irritation/compression of the sciatic nerve

What symptoms might you experience?

  • Ranging from mild ache to sharp pains, tingling, and numbness
  • Pain is often worse with weight bearing positions, increase in intra-abdominal pressure (e.g. sneezing/coughing) and positional changes (getting up from bed/chair)
  • May affect normal walking pattern

How is it treated?

As with most musculoskeletal conditions, management must involve a combination of medical and physiotherapeutic treatments.

Medical management

  • Imaging may be ordered by the physician
  • Prescription drugs prescribed to relieve pain & inflammation, ease muscle spasm and possibly nerve pain e.g. NSAIDs, muscle relaxants & nerve pain medication

Physiotherapy management

  • Activity modification
  • Heat/cold pack
  • Therapeutic modalities such as spinal traction treatment, SIS therapy and electrical stimulation treatment
  • Manual therapy (therapist applies hands-on treatment to alleviate stiff joints, tight muscles and poor nerve mobility where applicable)
  • Therapeutic exercises to centralize & reduce pain (a/o neurologic symptoms)
  • Lumbar support or walking aid may be helpful to relieve spinal compression (depending on condition & therapist’s assessment)

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